For the second straight year the Benjamin Moore Paints-Budweiser 'The Big Show 100' presented by Brett Hearn at Orange County Fair Speedway battled the elements and won. And so did Jimmy Phelps as he claimed the highly publicized mid-week Super DIRTcar Series show at the historic Middletown, N.Y. oval that was shortened by rain for a second successive season.
Phelps’ victory was the first of 2010 on tour for the Baldwinsville, N.Y. chauffer, worth $6,000 and a guaranteed starting berth in both the Syracuse 200 during Super DIRT Week in October and the ‘Exemption Dash’ held on Friday of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend at Cayuga County Fair Speedway in July.
“I can’t say I’m happy that we got cut short by rain because you never know what would happen, but the bottom line is that I think we had a car that could go to the end,” stated Phelps, 35, after the final checkered flag fell over the field that had parked pitside to wait out the rainfall with 67 of the scheduled 100 laps scored. “We’re just happy to finally get to victory lane on the series this year.”
Declared the winner when evening showers reduced the inaugural ‘Big Show’ to 59 laps last June, Billy Decker crossed the stripe in second-place on Wednesday followed by Canadian sensation Stewart Friesen, veteran New Yorker Danny Johnson and New Jersey upstart Michael Storms. Tim Hindley, Gary Tomkins, Bob McGannon, Bobby Varin and Lance Willix II filled out the Top-10 as raindrops continued to fall over the ‘Hard Clay’ when the cancellation became official at 10:40 p.m.
“I am really happy for the whole HBR team, though, and have to thank everybody that works so hard on this car back at the shop all week. We’ve finally hit on a good combination so hopefully we can continue to carry the momentum for the rest of the summer,” Phelps said.
Despite threatening skies overhead throughout the day and a forecast of rain that chased away both racers and spectators, Phelps was never in doubt as he collected his second Bilstein Shocks Fast Time award from a fine field of 34 Big-Blocks that signed in for round five on the Northeast’s premier Modified tour. Selecting ‘9’ in the customary pre-race draw among the top-12 heat race qualifiers was hardly a deterrent as he needed 38 laps to wrestle away the lead from local hero Jerry Higbie, then hold back challenges from Decker as the final laps wound down.
Orange County regular Tommy Meier out-dragged front row partner Tim Fuller from his pole-position start as Matt Sheppard, Ryan Phelps, Higbie and Dale Planck fell in line directly behind during the early going. Fuller suddenly dropped off the pace with a flat right-rear tire on lap six, with Sheppard overtaking Meier on the ensuing lap 10 restart.
Back markers John Lieto, Mike King and Dean Pearson tangled at the end of the front stretch to force out a second caution flag on lap 11, and on the next restart Meier returned to the point as disaster struck Sheppard after he got sideways exiting turn four. Also involved in the chain-reaction incident between the corners was Orange County host Hearn, who returned trackside a number of laps down to the leaders.
Meier retained the point until the green returned on lap 20 and Higbie charged ahead aboard Mike Petruska’s Hutchings Insurance no. 66 Atlas Paving/TEO mount. With 25 laps scored, Phelps had maneuvered into second followed by Decker, Meier and Johnson. Two more brief caution periods for Jeremy Markle (lap 29 spin) and Billy Dunn (lap 34 slowdown) kept the field in check, as Johnson and Storms took advantage of a fast fading Meier machine to move up among the top-five.
Markle and Dunn tangled together high in turns three and four to incur a sixth yellow flag, yet before the green lights reappeared the most destructive accident of the night unfolded right in front of the main grandstands. Buckled into the Sherlock Motorsports no. 10 Tri-State Roofing ride, Johnson clipped the cement barrier down low exiting turn four and the impact lifted his car straight up and sent it slamming immediately into the side of Higbie. The chain-reaction that followed among no less than a dozen racers resulted in a pair of demolished rides for Higbie and Mark Flach Jr., while Fuller and Rick Laubach headlined the list of casualties done in for the remainder of the show.
With rain moving into the area, laps once again began to count at the scheduled halfway point and lap 50 leader Phelps was in position to earn a $250 bonus from VP Racing Fuels for passing that distance first. Johnson and Storms shared bruises high in turn three to require the seventh and final caution period on lap 61, the same time officials began to witness the first sprinkles to hit the fairgrounds. A half-dozen laps later the surface was declared unsafe and Phelps was credited with his sixth career series victory, with at least one registered each of the past five years.
“The front end of the car got real loose early on, but the longer the race went on the better it felt. I got a good jump into the lead on that one restart and at that point I could settle back into my line and the car was just really great after that,” added Phelps, after the HBR Motorsports-Wave Energy Drink-Mohawk Northeast/Troyer entry carried him to his fifth feature win of the season.
Emerging as the only driver with all Top-five finishes in the opening five events, runner-up Decker (471) overtook Sheppard (450) on the points chart while Phelps (426) improved to third ahead of Planck and Johnson three-quarters of the way through the series.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit so I feel fortunate to get out of here with a second,” figured Decker, 45, who logged his lone series win at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway in April before adding a second at Fulton, third at Cayuga County and fifth just last night at Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania. “Jimmy was really good and they got even better when they unloaded right out of the box with that fast time.”
“We were pretty good out there, took me a few more laps to get going than it did him and then I think after that we pretty much leveled off. I don’t know if I had anything for Jimmy if it would’ve gone the distance, I was just digging and clawing, probably flirting with danger on occasion. I can’t tell you something different would’ve happened later on, but I can guarantee we’d be up on the wheel trying to make it happen. Right now I’d like to thank the fans for coming out and supporting us, pretty soon we’ll get 100 laps in around here,” Decker smiled.
Fresh off his disappointing DNF (did not finish) the night before at Grandview, Friesen paced himself on Tuesday to crack the front-five for just the second time in four starts this season. The third-generation standout from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. placed fifth in the Fulton finale run in early April.
“We just about inherited every spot we got tonight, but I really don’t care how we got there,” declared Friesen, 26, on the heels of one of his best career tour finishes during the new millennium. “I started 14th and got passed by a couple cars on the start, then I think we really only passed one car under green flag racing. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, when the restarts are hairy like that you have to be heads-up.”
“I’m thrilled to get third tonight, got one taken away from us the night before. It was an unfortunate deal, just a racing incident, so it’s really good to rebound tonight with a solid Top-3,” ended Friesen, who ran among the front-three Tuesday at Grandview before late-race contact parked his Pizza Logs no. 1 Jeff Daley & Sons Oil Service-Westmoreland Golf Club/TEO entry for the night with just eight laps to go.
A 10-day break is afforded the top travelers in the 2010 Super DIRTcar Series before the refurbished Mohawk Int’l Raceway takes center stage for the rare Big-Block 100-lapper in the north country on June 23. Guaranteed starting berths in both the Syracuse 200 and 358-Modified Championship during Super DIRT Week in October, as well as All-Star Weekend Exemption Dash, are at stake, along with a $6,000 top prize for the mid-week winner.
Super DIRTcar Series Race #5
Orange County Fair Speedway, June 16, 2010,
‘The Big Show 2' Big-Block Modified Event Summary
FIN STR CAR# DRIVER
1 9 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY ($6,000)
2 8 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
3 14 1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
4 12 10 Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
5 4 4* Michael Storms/Wantage,NJ
6 13 1h Tim Hindley/Monticello,NY
7 28 673 Gary Tomkins/Clifton Springs,NY
8 26 21m Bob McGannon/Garnerville,NY
9 11 10v Bobby Varin/Sharon Springs,NY
10 15 16 Lance Willix II/Theresa,NY
11 16 3d Matt DeLorenzo/Cropseyville,NY
12 3 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY
13 24 49 Billy Dunn/Watertown,NY
14 5 99 Ryan Phelps/Fulton,NY
15 27 79 Jeremy Markle/Port Jervis,NY
16 31 55 Mike King/Nassau,NY
17 29 8j Dean Pearson/Harrisville,PA
18 20 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
19 1 33-1/3 Tommy Meier/Waldwick,NJ
20 6 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY
21 10 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
22 22 62s Tom Sears Jr./Clay,NY
23 7 66 Jerry Higbie/Slate Hill,NY
24 21 24 Chris Shultz/Pawling,NY
25 19 77f Mark Flach Jr./Selkirk,NY
26 2 74 Tim Fuller/Edwards,NY
27 25 5 Rick Laubach/Quakertown,PA
28 33 11 Danny Creeden/Middletown,NY
29 30 87x Paul Gilardi/Pittsfield,MA
30 17 49er Jeff Heotzler/Wallkill,NY
31 23 33 John Lieto/Mt.Kisco,NY
32 18 rj2 Ronnie Johnson/Duanesburg,NY
33 32 7k Kirk Horton/Eldred,NY
DNS 34 93x Craig Mitchell/Poughkeepsie,NY
GATER RACING NEWS LAP LEADERS: Meier (1-8), Sheppard (9-13), Meier (14-19), Higbie (20-37), J.Phelps (38-67).
CAUTIONS: 7 for 35 laps; 1 RED FLAG (lap 49).
BEHRENT'S PERFORMANCE WAREHOUSE/DAVE'S RACING OLLECTIBLES HEAT WINNERS ($100): Sheppard, J.Phelps, D.Johnson, Planck.
CONSI WINNERS: Shultz, Sears.
BICKNELL RACING PRODUCTS WINNER AWARD: Jimmy Phelps.
MSD IGNITION WINNER AWARD: Jimmy Phelps.
SYRACUSE 200 QUALIFIER: Jimmy Phelps.
VP RACING FUELS HALFWAY/LAP 50 LEADER ($250): Jimmy Phelps.
BERT/KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER AWARD: Gary Tomkins.
XTREME LUBRICANTS SLICK MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: Brett Hearn.
PENSKE POWER POSITION AWARD (20th): Dale Planck.
MSD IGNITION FINAL PLACEMENT AWARD: Kirk Horton.
BILSTEIN SHOCKS FAST TIME AWARD: Jimmy Phelps (21.160sec/106.333mph).
TEO FABRICATION SINGLE-ELIMINATION WINNER ($500): Tom Sears Jr.
TOTAL PURSE: $28,650.
CARS ENTERED: 34.
NEXT EVENT: Mohawk Int'l Raceway - June 23, 2010